During the last few months, I’ve been talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it affects me a loss mother. I am the type of person that has to make sense of everything that is going on with me. Probably a little controlling on my part, but that’s how I’m wired. Depression, anxiety, and grief have flooded my life the past (almost) ten months and I thought there was something more going on with different experiences I’ve had since Jensen was born. That’s when I started researching. I came across Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and rolled my eyes thinking only people who’ve went to war or are in horrible accidents have this disorder…
But the more I was researching, here, about PTSD, I found a lot of the symptoms I had were very similar to what was being described. Even when as I read the fourth one just now, it’s exactly how I am in certain situations. Again, I am not a therapist or psychologist. The symptoms I researched just made sense to me and my situation. It is a way I can understand my grief and what I’m feeling. Speaking to other loss moms, I know I’m not alone in feeling these different things. This little four post series is just letting you know that if you do have these feelings, there are others that are facing them as well. For a symptom refresher, here is the list one more time.
- Reliving the event.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
- Feeling ‘keyed’ up or being on the lookout for danger.
With each on of these posts about another symptom, I find myself just marveling how I am facing each one when I’m writing. I pulled of the VA’s website again to really see what feeling ‘keyed’ up is like. Two things jumped out at me immediately, having a hard time sleeping and not being able to concentrate. This would make much more sense if you were sitting with me at this moment. Although this will be posted in the afternoon, I’m writing at 1:30 in the morning. I never sleep. It’s so hard for me to really settle down and relax. Honestly, I’m afraid of having horrible nightmares and I’m just on edge. There’s a fear that something bad is going to happen tomorrow. Because why wouldn’t it? The paragraph also talks about being jittery and always alert. This really distracts me from sleeping. I’m constantly moving while laying in bed. No wonder why I can’t peacefully fall asleep. Then comes the concentration… I can’t think long enough to make myself just sit still. Like me writing right now, there’s a hundred different places I want to go with this post. Yet, my train of thought gets cut off and something else jumps in its place. Which causes me to get angry and irritated myself; I guess that means ‘keyed’ up.
Maybe that just my severe anxiety?
But, another part of this symptom talks about outside triggers. They talk about being surprised by a loud noise or a surprise. For me, it’s babies crying and a rhythmic beeping. Although I am thankful there are babies crying out in the world and that another mom doesn’t have to deal with silence, it hurts. It sends me up the wall because all I want to know is what Jensen’s cries would sound like. I want to be able to pick those babies up and just cuddle them and make them feel better. But then I don’t. It sends me spiraling to all the what ifs and sadness. Then I get mad at myself because I want Jensen. Panic ensues and this is all triggered by one cry. The beeping noise is a little weirder. Let’s say when I’m at the grocery store and the cashier is scanning all the items, that beeping morphs into a heartbeat sound. Just thinking about those beeps and the silence of that last ultrasounds triggers me. It’s not something I’ll ever be able to prevent, but I can feel it coming. Sometimes they’re louder than the other, but that’s real.
It also talks about sitting with your back to the wall at a restaurant or anywhere you go. For me and my situation, I would say I’m hyper aware of where I sit or stand in public. I’m always scanning. In those moments, I’d be able to tell you how many babies are there and where they are. It’s almost like I’m trying to prepare for that cry. I want to have all my guards up so I don’t feel like I’m spiraling to a complete panic attack. It’s rough. I know it’s not really a lookout for danger, but it is a lookout for a trigger. A baby is harmless. They are innocent, sweet, and deserve all the love in the world. But for me, it’s more complicated than that. I see all those things in a child, but I also see the space Jensen should occupy. Feeling that loss every time you see a beautiful, little baby breaks my heart. I don’t want to see them and instantly go into a panic attack, but I can’t control it. Now that I’ve really thought about being keyed up in situations, it’s perfect to explain it.
Living with PTSD after loss is a part of my life now. I face almost every symptom every day. There are days where I can try to be so strong and only let a few get to me, but I’m working on it. Losing Jensen has a ton of different layers of pain and healing. These four symptoms of PTSD are four big ones. It’s impossible to tackle the realization that my life will never be what I planned, grief, anxiety, depression, PTSD, secondary losses, and so much more all at once. If you’re going through all of this, please know that you’re not alone in this. I know how overwhelming losing a child is and everything else that we have to face. Sometimes it feels that no one will ever understand all of this feeling, but there will be people (like me) that can relate and just listen.
If you’re reading this and you’re a support person… first of all, thank you. You have no idea how much it means to be there for a your loved one. Second, be patient. As I said above, we can’t tackle this all at once. No matter if its weeks, months, years, decades, or even a lifetime, the best thing is to just have someone listen. If you see your loved one is struggling and are being triggered, ask them what they need. Everyone is different in that way and sometimes they just need to escape that situation.
This concludes this four-part/symptom discussion about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There’s a huge possibility that I come back to this or even symptoms of depression and anxiety in the future. I think it’s crucial for people to talk about mental health and how it’s normal for people to battle. It helps us know that these aren’t crazy thoughts, in the most crazy time of our lives.